In the face of African-American voters’ overwhelming support for President Obama in the 2012 election, some right-wing pundits dismissed this as simply racial allegiance rather than an embrace of liberal positions. A recently released poll demonstrates, perhaps to their chagrin, that the Christian Right’s investment in Black antichoice leaders, such as Ryan Bomberger of the Radiance Foundation and Bishop Harry Jackson, was unsuccessful in moving the African-American community on reproductive justice. It seems that the Radiance Foundation’s provocative 2011 billboard campaign with statements like “the most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb” fell short.
Conducted nearly two weeks after the 2012 election, the poll asked African-American adults for their views on hot button issues like sexual health education and abortion. The majority of participants—who represented different religious and political affiliations, and ranged in age, education, and income—mirrored the President’s positions on women’s rights, including support for abortion (79%) and contraceptive access (94%). When asked about teen sex education, the majority supported a comprehensive curriculum that includes “prevention of HIV-AIDS and STDs, sexual and domestic abuse, unintended pregnancy, abstinence, and healthy romantic relationships.” Reproductive justice activist Jasmine Burnett, whose innovative work helped bring the infamous billboards down, confirms: “The propaganda used by the right-wing to frame our community as being aligned with their political interest to end women’s access to reproductive health is wrong.”
These results are validating to the women of color leaders who developed the reproductive justice framework, which looks at a range of reproductive health and rights issues beyond abortion and at those communities most vulnerable to antichoice attacks. Veteran women’s health advocate, Eleanor Hinton Hoytt, President and CEO of the Black Women’s Health Imperative, told PRA: “This is the first time we have the evidence to definitively state: Black people support the full range of reproductive rights including abortion. The study also makes clear, regardless of class status, the majority of African-Americans believe that public funding should be available for abortion care.”
The right-wing has demonstrated a continued commitment to the assault on reproductive rights, with low-income individuals, who are disproportionately women or trans people of color, suffering the most. In addition to maintaining an antichoice Republican majority in the House of Representatives and continually passing the Hyde Amendment banning federal funding of abortion, the antichoice movement is experiencing sweeping success at the state level. In 2012 alone, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America, 42 anti-choice measures were brought to fruition, including bans on abortion care after 20 weeks, laws prohibiting abortion coverage in state health-insurance exchanges, and laws that prohibit state funds from going to Planned Parenthood or to any health center that provides abortion services, even if that money is earmarked for other service. The Right is also waging a relentless fight in the courts against the Affordable Care Act, arguing that the law violates the religious liberty of corporations by insisting that their insurance plans cover contraception (see PRA’s forthcoming report, Redefining Religious Liberty, on March 14th).
Hoytt believes the findings provide a new opening to build a broader coalition of reproductive justice support, recognizing that while Black communities might suffer the most from right-wing attacks, they do not share their ideology. “Now we are armed with the data to go with confidence to coalition meetings, allies, and constituents and invite them to join us on the campaign to repeal the Hyde amendment and support Black women and girls’ capacity to have the self determination to make decisions about their bodies especially their reproductive health.”
Jasmine shares Eleanor’s sentiments, saying of the study “this means our community is behind us, and supports our efforts to not only protect reproductive health services, but also stands in defense of our self-determination and dignity to make the best decisions for our lives and families.”